Whether you’ve ever stopped to think about it or not, I’m guessing you have a few different informal email distribution lists for sending information of a certain nature to certain groups of people. For example, I send finance-related things to my friends Chris, Ryan, and Colby. I send things regarding pop culture to my wife, Melissa, and our friend Ali. I send anything about being judgmental and emotionally unavailable to Ryan. And so on.
But the distribution list I use most frequently is my “Anything Relating to Animals, with a Special Focus on Sharks and Shark Attacks List,” which consists of Christian and my friend Craig. While the stories and links the three of us send to each other are of little or no interest to most people (ignorant people who don’t know what’s good for them), we find them endlessly fascinating. In fact, there are few emails I look forward to reading as much as these ones from Craig or Christian. I did a little search in my email, and found a representative few that you may (or most likely, may not) want to check out:
An Amazing Slide Show of the World’s Ugliest Animals, from Craig (which includes the picture of the Aye Aye that you saw before you clicked on this post and the below picture of the Naked Mole Rat)
A Bear Kills Two High-Ranking Militants in Kashmir (Craig’s reaction: “This is how we’re going to kill Osama.”)
That’s just a small sampling of the great, great stuff we send to each other. Now, a few days ago Christian posted a link on our sidebar entitled “Important Animal Facts.” It goes without saying that I clicked on that link. Of course I did. If you were plotting to kill me, you could just put a big black bomb like you see in cartoons on my doorstep with a note that says, “Light this if you want to hear some awesome animal facts.” The website I found by clicking Christian’s link is – and I’m not exaggerating – a national treasure. I encourage you to go visit it here.
Now, the aesthetics of the site instantly raised doubts in my mind as to the legitimacy of the animal facts found there. I’m actually kind of surprised by the extent to which a website’s appearance influences my reaction to the site’s content. “Hmm. This website sells a pill that it can cure baldness and obesity and causes small, woman-like hands to develop into the powerful bear paws one would expect from a man who measures over 6’2 and weighs slightly more than 180 lbs. I note with interest that your headquarters are in Nigeria, and that you’re asking for my credit card information but not my address, which presumably you would need in order to deliver the pills. BUT. Your website is well-designed and official-looking. (Takes credit card out of wallet with small, woman-like hands.)”
However, my skepticism regarding the veracity of the animal facts found on this site was partially relieved when I read the third fact down from the top:
“The fingerprints of koala bears are virtually indistinguishable from those of humans, so much so that they could be confused at a crime scene.”
Detective (ducking under yellow crime scene tape): “What do we have?”
Uniformed Officer: “Double homicide. Forced entry.”
Detective: “Any fingerprints?”
Uniformed Officer: “Yeah, plenty.”
Detective: “Human or koala?”
Uniformed Officer: “That’s not fair, sir.”
Detective: “You’re right. I’m sorry. We’ll just have to wait for results from the lab.”
Any lingering doubts I had about these animal facts were definitively put to rest when I saw that some of them are sourced. And by sourced I mean they are followed by the name and email address of the person who presumably sent the fact in. These facts come from the leading lights of the zoological community, including Lauren, Jason, Hilary Smith, and MangoPete.
Although I accept as truth all of the facts found on this page, I thought it might be nice to have official confirmation from some of the authorities who sent them in, so I emailed each and every one of them. Here’s an example of what I sent:
I was perusing the Animal Facts found at http://www.jayp.net/trivia/animal01.htm and saw that your name and email address were given as the source for the following animal fact:
“A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate.”
I’m writing to inquire as to how you came to know this particular fact; a brief reply would be most appreciated.
Surprisingly, I’ve yet to hear back from anyone. I’m guessing everyone is away at the big Animal Facts conference at Cornell. In the interest of spreading scientific knowledge, I’ve taken the liberty of copying over a few of my very favorite facts from this website (in blue), with a few of my comments below them. Please remember: I didn’t make these up; they’re all copied verbatim from the aforementioned website:
“A duck’s quack doesn’t echo, and no one knows why.”
The scene: The Animal Facts Conference at Cornell. MangoPete: “Does anyone know why a duck’s quack doesn’t echo?” Hilary Smith: “No.” Lauren: “Nope.” Jason: “Nuh uh.” MangoPete: “Nobody knows? Ok, nobody knows.”
“The closest relative to the manatee is the elephant. Scientists think the elephant crawled back into the sea to become a manatee. “
Scientists believe this occurred in the following way: Elephant 1: “You know, I really hate it up here.” Elephant 2: “Yeah, me too. Let’s crawl back into the sea and become manatees.” Elephant 1: “Ok.”
“Cats can hear ultrasound.”
“Mr. Whiskers, come listen to my tummy. One meow if it’s a girl, two if it’s a boy.”
“The province of Alberta in Canada has been completely free of rats since 1905.”
“Welcome to Alberta: Mostly free of rats since 1886, completely free since 1905!
“Cat’s urine glows under a blacklight.”
“Mr. Whiskers, if it’s a boy, spell “B-O-Y” in urine on the floor, and I’ll go get my blacklight.”
“Studies show that if a cat falls off the seventh floor of a building it has about thirty percent less chance of surviving than a cat that falls off the twentieth floor. It supposedly takes about eight floors for the cat to realize what is occurring, relax and correct itself. At about that height it hits maximum speed and when it hits the ground it’s rib cage absorbs most of the impact.”
Science compelled me to attempt to recreate this seminal study to verify its findings. Here’s some footage.
“Carnivorous animals will not eat another animal that has been hit by a lightning strike.”
A lion tackles an antelope, and moves to clamp his jaws on the antelope’s windpipe. Antelope: “Wait! Wait! I’ve been struck by lightning!” Lion (narrowing eyes): “Seriously?” Antelope: “I’m not kidding, man, I promise. I got struck by lighting about, I don’t know, 6 months ago.” Lion: “Ewwwwwwwww. Get out of here.”
“Rabbits love licorice. “
Everyone loves licorice, so it stands to reason that rabbits do. It’s called Occam’s razor. Look it up.
“Spider Monkies like banana daquiries.”
Bartender: “What’ll it be?” Spider Monkey (rolls eyes): “What do you think?”
“It was discovered on a space mission that a frog can throw up.”
Astronaut: “Mission control, you are not going to believe this, but you know that frog we brought up with us? It just threw up!!!!” Mission Control: (Two men in short-sleeved white shirts with buzz cuts high five each other).
“If NASA sent birds into space they would soon die, they need gravity to swallow. “
NASA Engineer #1: “Johnson, there is literally only one thing that is preventing us from sending birds into space. I’m not concerned about the extreme temperatures or the lack of oxygen and air pressure or the absence of any food or water.” Johnson: “Yeah, we’ve had our best men on this for years. No gravity, no swallowing. If only we could reverse engineer the space-vomiting properties of the frog.”
“Orcas (killer whales) kill sharks by torpedoing up into the shark’s stomach from underneath, causing the shark to explode.”
I have no comment on this, other than that I believe in my heart that it’s true and that I won’t rest until I witness this phenomenon in person.
“A donkey will sink in quicksand but a mule won’t.”
This one is just common sense.
“Horses cannot vomit.”
Or at least we think they can’t. We won’t know for sure until we get one into space.